by Christopher Harbin

Announcing God's Presence
Christopher B. Harbin
Isaiah 40:1-11

Most people have a complicated relationship with God. They either want God very close by or very far away. At the same time, they want the opposite. They want God close by, but are afraid of God getting too close to the day to day aspects of their lives. Others don't generally want anything to do with God, but at the same time they want God available when they have some trouble or difficulty. We want God in some measured, controlled manner that leaves us free to go about the business of living without too much interference. What happens when God comes nearer than we might be comfortable accepting?

Many have the same kind of relation with God they have with police officers. They generally avoid them at all costs until something comes up that requires special assistance. They maintain this distance due to a sense that an officer is not there to help that population, but to enforce rules and regulations that make us uncomfortable, limit our freedom, or cause us to feel guilty, regardless of the quality of our actions.

For Israel and Judah, a relationship with God was very similar. They had mostly attempted to avoid God and God's attentions. They had told Moses they wanted him to play interference and keep God at a measurable distance. The widow from Zaraphthah chastised Elijah our of her discomfort with having God take notice of her, blaming this for her son's illness. Throughout the story of Israel, kings and the people regularly attempted to keep Yahweh at arm's length, only claiming ties to Yahweh when their lives had gotten out of control. They were afraid that God's attention would spell doom for them, causing them harm and interrupting their lives and ambitions.

That was the essential story of the exile to which Isaiah responded. The people had allowed their relationship with Yahweh to become distant to the point that they had abandoned God's design for their lives and Yahweh allowed th ...

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